By Raïssa Robles
The Cybercrime Law is “partly good and partly chilling,” wrote Jesuit priest-lawyer Joaquin Bernas in his latest blog entry posted yesterday.
Bernas explained why:
As can easily be seen, the law deals not only with the most delicate rights of freedom of expression, freedom of communication, and the privacy of communication but also with the equally sacred right of the people “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects” against government intrusion. These rights suffered during the period of martial rule. Their suppression or impairment are usually the targets of governments who have dark intentions. When criticized, the facile answer to critics given by those with dark intentions is that these rights are not absolute. That defense is already being repeated by Palace mouthpieces. It is therefore a good time to look into the disturbing aspects of the law. We might begin by taking at least a preliminary look at some of the provisions which are now under attack.
For the young Netizens who are now running scared because of this law, this gives you a chance and a lesson to experience even just a little bit the chilling effect of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law. The latter was much, much worse. And yet you fear this online libel.
By the way, I’m glad Senator Vicente Sotto has finally admitted it was he who had inserted the online libel provision in the Cybercrime Act.
Wonder why he said this to a foreign news network but denied the same to local journalists.
Prominent digital rights champion takes up our fight against online libel
Since I wrote about Senator Vicente Sotto’s midnight insertion of the online libel section in the Cybercrime Prevention Act, the outrage has gone viral on the Net.
My husband Alan called my attention to the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation which wrote a piece supporting Filipino netizens. I am humbled by the fact that EFF linked the piece to my website. It is a demonstration of the power of the World Wide Web to connect people globally together.
Boingboing also picks up cybercrime law
My piece was also picked up by the much-read culture and technology site Boingboing. And I’m not even a geek :)
Please click on this link to read.
Philippine Daily Inquirer mentions me in their editorial
I would also like to thank the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the biggest-selling Philippine newspaper, for mentioning me and what I wrote in their editorial.
Please click on this link to read.
Again, all these underscore that one person cannot do this alone.
But altogether, we can.
I’m not against a libel law covering netizens
Let me explain my personal stand on online libel. I am not against punishing people who make libelous statements online. But the law has to be well-defined on what are considered libelous statements; who gets punished for them; and what the punishment is. I also don’t believe in a jail term.
And I believe a public hearing should be called on the matter and a separate law crafted just on this.
I have been a victim of libelous statements myself – frequently repeated lies that accuse me up to now of being “the small lady who gave bank documents to the prosecution” during the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona; of being a kleptomaniac who filched from a high-end furniture store; and of being a paid hack. I am aghast at how some people can make up lies and post these online. I will fight such lies no end and will expose those behind it.
But I believe that the Internet can and is being used more for the greater good of the country. The Cybercrime Law – the way it is so sloppily worded now – will make this blooming of democracy shrivel on the vine.
As my hubby Alan told me during one of our discussions at the breakfast table, democracy is defending another person’s right to say what I vehemently disagree with; not what I agree with. Sometimes, discussions do get so heated up that these degenerate into name-calling and opinions that defy logic. But this is all part and parcel of our maturation as a democracy.
Which is why, Alan said we have to rid our law books of what he calls “this Sottobomination”.
Alan also also coined another word –” Sottomy: the act of poisoning a well-intentioned bill with a vested interest stealth amendment not subject to public hearing.”
I have always believed in the expression of contrary views, and this shows in this blog. Because only when we are exposed to a multiplicity of opinions and ideas do we see many sides of an issue. In the same way that in order to appreciate the beauty of a polished diamond, you have to turn it around and around to see all its facets.
Oh, by the way – NO, this is not the interesting topic I promised to write about Sotto. That’s coming next. You’d be surprised. I guess he will, too.